“The differences between them – all those things she’d once found so infuriating – she now accepted. Being Enid’s friend meant there were always going to be surprises. However close they were it didn’t entitle her to Enid’s memories and neither did it allow her to be part of Enid’s life before they met. Being a friend meant accepting those unknowable things. It was by placing herself side by side with Enid that Margery had finally begun to see the true outline of herself. And she knew it now: Enid was her friend.”
It is 1950, two unlikely women set off on a hare-brained adventure to the other side of the w orld to try and find a beetle, and in doing so discover friendship and how to be their best of themselves. This is quintessential Joyce: at once poignant and playful, with huge heart and the same resonance, truth and lightness of touch as her phenomenally succcesful debut, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
Britain, post Second World War. In a moment of madness Margery Benson abandons her sensible job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist.
Enid Pretty, in pink hat and pompom sandals, is not the companion she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all expectations. They must risk everything, break all the rules, but at the top of a red mountain they will discover who they truly are, and how to be the best of themselves.
This is a novel that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.
Rachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Perfect, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop and a collection of interlinked short stories, A Snow Garden & Other Stories. Her books have been translated into thirty -six languages and two are in development for film.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was shortlisted for the CommonwealthBook prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Rachelwas awarded the SpecsaversNational Book Awards ‘NewWriter ofthe Year’ in December 201 2 and shortlisted for the ‘UK Author of the Year’201 4. Rachel was a Costa prize judge and University Big Read author in 2019.
She has also written over twenty original afternoon plays and adaptations of the classics for BBC Radio 4, including all the Bronte novels. She moved to writing after a long career as an actor, performing leading roles for the RSC, the National Theatre and Cheek by Jowl. She lives with her family in Gloucestershire.
This book was a delight. Margery and Enid are such an entertaining odd couple as they travel across the world to find a beetle most people don’t believe exists in the rainforest of New Caledonia.
Their adventures are bittersweet and I am with the author’s sister on this – I don’t like the ending!
The two women are such characters, I could so easily picture them, Margery with her old fashioned suits and eternal spinster air and flighty Enid, all baby pink and hair dye. But underneath these exteriors are two remarkable souls searching for something more than just beetles – connection.
There are some genuine laugh out loud funny moments, and ones of sudden sadness, balancing the levity.
Beautifully written and one of those stories you’d really rather didn’t end.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.